If the primary objective of a pre-season to tour to warmer climes is to allow the playing squad to practice, train and play in a warm, and virtually guaranteed rain-free environment, then the objective was met the moment the tour was booked.
The prevailing weather conditions back in Derbyshire wouldn’t have allowed the players to train and play outdoors so the logic of travelling to the Caribbean makes sense on so many levels.
Pre-season overseas training is nothing new; as long ago as 1993 Derbyshire went to Bermuda and in the early part of this century, Derbyshire’s warm weather training took place in Portugal. But the tours to Barbados over the last 4 years have become a regular feature of Derbyshire’s season whilst at the same time growing into something of a county cricket travelling circus. Six counties have been in Barbados and several more are in South Africa and it can only be a matter of time before all 18 counties travel abroad before the season begins.
With the first class season about to start with the traditional curtain-raiser between ChampionCounty and MCC it is maybe worth considering that having already moved the game from its traditional home of Lord’s to Dubai, an alternative venue could be here in Barbados. The MCC side could then be selected from the county sides already here; and what better place to play than at the Kensington Oval on this cricket-mad island?
As I write the opening paragraphs of this report looking out from the pavilion window at North Stars, the players are being put through their paces by Luke Storey in glorious sunshine, without a tracksuit, woollen glove or beanie hat in sight, and it goes without saying that there is less likelihood of strains and pulls in such a warm environment - while a swim in the sea when play ends provides a perfect antidote to the exertions of the day.
Notwithstanding that, the conditions could not prevent the fractured cheekbone suffered by Paul Borrington at the 3W’s on Saturday, or the fractured finger injury to Dan Redfern which occurred during the first practice session of the tour. Wayne Madsen’s groin injury pre-dated the tour, and Mark Footitt’s and Peter Burgoyne’s stomach upsets were unforeseen. Similarly, Jon Clare’s knock to the knee could have happened in any net session, anywhere.
Other players – Wes Durston, Ross Whiteley and Mark Turner – have been nursed a little as the tour has progressed, but the lynchpins of the bowling attack in 2012, Groenewald, Palladino and Wainwright have bowled their overs and will again be crucial in 2013, and both wicket-keepers, Tom Poynton and Richard Johnson, have been effervescent and efficient and neither will let Derbyshire down, regardless of who is selected for the opening game on 10th April.
Madsen, in his only innings of the tour against Nottinghamshire, looked assured and Godleman played well in both formats of the game. He has scored 5 first class centuries and looks to have the ability to add more.
Chesney Hughes and Wes Durston both scored hundreds in the 2-day games, Hughes against Northants and Durston against Notts and Karl Krikken and Wayne Madsen will have some serious thinking to do if everyone is fit for the start of the season. Hughes, a mainstay of the side in limited overs cricket, played just one Championship game in 2012 and will be keen to re-establish his place in the 4-day side. His two red-ball innings here will have done his cause no harm.
Ross Whiteley played a match-winning innings against Warwickshire at the Kensington Oval and will again be an important player in all formats.
Mark Footitt bowled quickly at the Kensington Oval and the final over by Mark Turner against Warwickshire was both genuinely fast and decisive. Turner also bowled with real pace against Northants at North Stars and will undoubtedly be in contention for a place in all forms of the game.
For some of the younger players there was the opportunity for some squad cricket away from the main venues and also to practice and train as a squad for the first time and Ali Evans and Matt Higginbottom will have enjoyed their lengthy bowls against Nottinghamshire.
From what I’ve witnessed here over the last 10 days, it’s clear that the players have been able to push themselves further than they would have done in England. Running and bowling flat out is almost impossible on a cricket outfield in England in March – unless you want to damage your body – and what they have achieved here could simply not have been replicated in the Gateway Cricket Hall.
The entire party, without exception and as one would expect, has behaved impeccably throughout the tour , and the players have all worked hard – they had one day off and even then most of them were found in Luke Storey’s makeshift gym at some point – with the coaches ensuring intensive but enjoyable sessions.
After a hugely successful 2012, the players are in buoyant mood; they know that immense challenges lie ahead, but they have prepared well and will look to fine tune their preparations in England on their return.
It would be remiss to conclude this report without mention of the army of people who made the tour run smoothly. Our hosts at North Stars and the staff at the team hotel could not have been more hospitable, while the coach drivers, team liaison officers, groundstaff and caterers made sure that everyone in the tour party was looked after, fed and watered and always in the right place at the right time. They deserve our thanks and appreciation.
After a final training session at North Stars on Thursday, the tour party will leave the island on Friday and are due back in the UK early on Saturday.
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